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Order extended on inmate's feeding

December 24, 1997

Order extended on inmate's feeding

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

A Washington County Circuit judge Tuesday extended a temporary order allowing prison officials to force-feed an inmate who refuses to eat and scheduled a hearing on the state's request for a preliminary injunction.

The new order, signed by Judge Frederick C. Wright III, extends until Jan. 2 the temporary restraining order that was to expire at midnight on Tuesday.

Wright scheduled a hearing for Jan. 5 in which he will hear from the attorneys and Warren R. Stevenson, who has been on a hunger strike to protest his 25-year prison sentence.

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After Stevenson collapsed Dec. 12 at Roxbury Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown during a routine check of his weight, blood and urine, officials moved him to the infirmary at Maryland Correctional Institution. They filed a motion asking the court to grant them authority to administer intravenous feeding.

Stephen Z. Meehan, a spokesman for the Prisoner Rights Informational System of Maryland, which is representing Stevenson, said hunger strikes are a legitimate form of free speech.

"I've never been sure if the First Amendment is alive and well on that side of the street," he said.

Meehan said Stevenson intends to continue his hunger strike. Although his health has improved since officials began administering IV treatment, he has continued to refuse solid foods, according to court records.

Stevenson said Maryland law protects the right of adults not to eat.

"I think the law's very clear that competent adults can decline medical treatment," he said.

While inmates have staged hunger strikes in the past, state officials have said this is the first time they have needed to obtain a court order to intervene on behalf of a prisoner who has refused to eat.

Officials from the Division of Correction could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Stevenson was sentenced in 1988 in Baltimore County Circuit Court to 25 years in prison for burglary, according to court records. He was given a concurrent one-year sentence for a weapons charge.

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